Drinking & My Weight: Part 2
Once upon a time, in March of 2017, I attended a professional conference. Over breakfast one day, I connected with a writer I had worked with, but never met in person. That morning I learned she had also quit drinking.
I had been off the sauce just a couple months; she was sober more than a year, perhaps even two. Still, we bonded over the many incredible benefits of shaking off the burden of drinking.
“The first year,” she said to me, “I lost 30 pounds.”
“Ha!” I replied. “That isn’t happening to me.”
“Wait and see,” she said.
I wonder if she could see in my face how much I wanted her to be right. I didn’t stop drinking in order to lose weight, but I certainly hoped it would happen.
Just before the conference, I had gone shopping in search of business casual type conference-y clothes. In the dressing room at Macy’s I took slow even breaths, trying to remain calm, to not cry, as I confronted my exposed midsection and thighs. For years, I have been trying to stop hating myself, stop dieting, and stop letting clothing sizes undo me.
I really wanted a button down shirt but not one such garment in the store fit me. I am essentially petite, my shoulders are narrow and my arms are short, but my middle bulged. No shirt that buttoned without straining over my midsection fit my shoulders at all. Nothing that fit my shoulders buttoned. I gave up on tops, found one pair of suitable black pants and a pair of shoes. I didn’t cry.
That night in my journal, I wrote: “In the dressing room, I prayed that I would come to see my body with love and gratitude as it is now and also to release eating behaviors that negatively impact my health or contribute to my being fatter than I need to be.”
I also wrote: “If I could lose just 1 pound a month until my body says, ‘that’s enough,’ I would be so grateful. But if not I pray for the self-love to accept my body just as it is. My body is only one aspect of who I am, but I need to be at peace with it.”
It was a prayer and intention I brought to mind over and over, whenever I started thinking negative things about my body.
Late last year, I found myself googling phrases like “Why do I have no energy?”
Suddenly, I realize I don’t feel that way anymore. It is obviously partly due to giving up booze. But something else is happening too. The weight is coming off. It was so slow as to be barely noticeable at first, but over the past several months, it’s been a bit faster.
I’m now 22 pounds and two sizes down. And I have to admit I feel physically better as well as more comfortable, confidant, and accepting of my body. I'm not thin, but I love feeling up to hard workouts like spinning. I like looking better in clothes. Best of all, the lethargy is just gone.
Looking back now, I realize that alcohol affected my relationship with food in more ways than you might expect. First, of course, there were the empty calories of drinking. But then there were the additional calories I would consume because drinking lowers your inhibitions. French fries seem like a terrific idea when you’re drinking. Dessert? Why not? Additionally, alcohol numbs my stomach’s fullness signals making me much more likely to overeat. These are the most direct ways alcohol contributes to being heavier for me.
But then there are the after effects. First up—bad sleep. We’ve all seen the research on what kind of snacks people who slept less reach for; it’s the high fat, high carb, high calorie comfort food stuff. In fact, when you sleep too little, your body churns out less leptin, the fullness hormone. Combine feeling tired and eating pizza as meal, and who feels like working out? I never did. You know what I felt like after a day like that? Wine and take out.
Now, all of those behavior patterns have been working in reverse for almost a year. Most nights, I have 7 or 8 uninterrupted hours of deep sleep. In the morning, I want oatmeal, muesli, or toast with almond butter for breakfast. I am, most days, energized to work out. Also, I am motivated to cook healthy meals. There are far fewer nights at restaurants and bars than there used to be.
On average, I’ve lost .7 pounds per week. This hasn’t been a dramatic weight loss. But now enough time has gone by that it is really making a difference. Before I stopped drinking, I would never have thought this possible. I had a certain learned helplessness around the topic of my weight. I knew I could not diet anymore and I’m not dieting. I’m not tracking points, counting calories, logging my meals in an app, weighing or measuring my portions or anything like that.
I’m just choosing healthy, mostly plant-based foods and cooking them at home. I’m sleeping well and I’m working out. My body feels good and it feels like my weight is taking care of itself. This is the magic of not drinking.
Will I lose more weight? I stand by the idea that this up to my body. I would love to get into what is considered a healthy weight for my height, but I’m trying to avoid getting attached to a certain outcome. I feel great as I am right now and I want to appreciate that.
If there is more to report later, I’ll write a part 3. Stay tuned.